FdA Early Years and Education

Foundation degree

Start your teaching career with a Foundation Degree in Early Years and Education. You'll set yourself on the right path to educate young minds and help shape their futures from a young age.

Contact us

About your Foundation Degree in early years

Are you an experienced childcare professional or early years educator looking to take the next step? Or simply someone who dreams of a career helping children navigate the early years foundation stage? No matter where you're starting, our exciting foundation degree can help you build a rewarding career. It can also be your first stepping stone to further qualifications, including a top-up Bachelor degree or teaching qualification.

Course highlights

  • Ranked 7th in the country by the Guardian League Table 2024
  • Designed to enhance your personal development and your contribution within your place of work
  • Develop specialist knowledge in Early Years Education, and key skills in planning, practice and communication.
  • Enhance your learning through work placements with the support and guidance of a mentor.
  • Option to top-up to a full honours degree, or continue on to a teaching degree.

How you'll study

This course is studied 100% online

Course length

Study the course over 3 years

Start dates

Start your course in September

Application deadlineOur next deadline is

31st July 2024

UK Quality Assured

Course overview

Working with children is exciting, fun, and incredibly rewarding. You’ll get the chance to impact their development by guiding them through new activities, and facilitating their interest in new concepts. Teaching young children requires a different set of skills to teaching other age groups such as Key Stages 3 and 4. The education of young children requires specialist knowledge in Early Years Education, and key skills in planning, practice and communication.

This early years foundation degree online is designed to help you develop your teaching skills in your own place of work. When you have the opportunity to work while you learn, you’ll develop a functioning understanding of the policies and practices of the subject – benefiting your personal development and your contribution within your place of work.

You'll learn about the education sector as well as child development, play, safeguarding and equality, with a strong focus on issues that are currently affecting Early Years and Education services. Under the guidance of a mentor, you'll undertake work placements and record your progress in a professional development portfolio. There are no exams; you will be assessed throughout the course with essays, a reflective diary, reports, presentations, and contribution to web discussions.

All of your lecturers are research active and experienced within the field, whilst drawing upon their own and others' publications to enhance your understanding of key themes and concepts. Guest speakers are also involved with sharing their knowledge and skills of current practice.

Benefits to you

  • You'll develop a wide range of practical and analytical skills.
  • You'll improve your ability to think critically about your work.
  • Adapt your studies and assignments to reflect the setting in which you work
  • A foundation degree in Early Years and Education will open a wide range of career options, in areas ranging from teaching to social work.

Benefits to your organisation

  • Our Early Years and Education FdA course has professional recognition.
  • You'll be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of Early Years contexts within which the widening children's workforce operate.
  • You'll be familiar with the policies and practices of Early Years Education.
  • You'll be encouraged to critically analyse contemporary theories and empirical evidence in the area.

This course will open up a number of career options. You’ll be able to apply for roles in nursery work, school support and playwork. A FdA course in education studies is also an advantage if you want to do further study, such as topping up to a BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies in just one year.

The course has professional recognition. It takes into account the Children's Workforce Development Council and the Early Years Professional Framework


Core modules

Due to the structure of this course, there will be instances where you will study two modules simultaneously during a trimester. You will be supported by your tutors to help manage your workload and assessment deadlines.

Please contact one of our advisers to discuss the pacing of this course and the options available to match your circumstances.

Learning and Development

This module develops your own learning skills as well as teaching you to develop the learning skills of children. Explore the difference between learning and development, and consider the influence of adults on children’s learning. The key topics will be human development; understanding learning; study skills; and the roles played by parents and key persons in the educational development of their children.

Researching Childhood

With a FdA in early childhood studies you’ll be introduced to essential research skills relating to children, and this module will teach you about the importance of linking theory to your practice. The primary aim of ‘Researching Childhood’ is for you to develop skills in child observation and apply general research methods to childhood studies. You'll be expected to work in small groups and share your experience and ideas with your class. The key topics will be research methods; ethics involved in working with children; types of observation; and studying children.

Play, Health and Well-being

It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a link between lifestyle factors such as activity levels, diet and health. Due to this, Early Years Education degrees have begun to place a greater importance on the need for children to have access to outdoor environments. It is vital to get children making healthy choices and enjoying a balanced diet and active lifestyle from as young an age as possible. Play is recognised as being crucial to children's physical, mental, social and emotional well-being, yet opportunities and encouragement for free play are becoming increasingly limited. You’ll consider children’s well-being and how it relates to their rights. You’ll learn how well-being can be supported through healthy eating, regular physical activity and a play-based environment. The key topics will be well-being; healthy eating and exercise; and outdoor play and forest schools.

Safeguarding Children

In this module you’ll discover the importance of the welfare and well-being of children. You’ll learn about the complexities attached to the notion of risk, child abuse, protection and safeguarding. This module will also offer you a comprehensive understanding of English legislation, policy and procedures for keeping children safe from abuse. You will gain an understanding of the range of provisions available to support the needs and requirements of the children in your care. The key topics will be child protection; support and intervention; policy and legislation; multi-disciplinary working; and welfare and well-being.

Work-based Learning 1 Professional Practice

You will identify a specific aspect of practice to develop. Using an 'Action Inquiry' model, you will then plan a change strategy, implement the change and evaluate its effectiveness. This model of personal professional development will enable you to understand your workplace by observing, developing and carrying out an action plan to effect change and improvement in practice. You will develop valuable workplace skills in IT, communication, presentation, reflection and analysis that will translate to a variety of educational and childcare settings.

Supporting Children's Learning

This module aims to educate you on the ways in which children play, and how adults can help support their experience. Discover a variety of pedagogic strategies and learn about the importance of creative practices in how children learn through play. Different Early Years’ curricula (Steiner Waldorf, Montessori method, Experiential Education, High Scope, Reggio Emilia and Te Whariki) will be compared and contrasted with England’s curriculum. The key topics will be Early Years’ curricula; learning through play; creative learning and pedagogy; and documenting care and learning.

Embracing Diversity

In this module, you'll discuss disability, differences and special educational needs in relation to debates on inclusion and exclusion, needs and rights, and the importance of seeing every child as an individual. You’ll explore different cultural practices to enable an empathetic understanding of how to help all children feel welcome in a setting. Theories for this module are drawn from different backgrounds such as psychology, sociology and education. The key topics will be history and language of inclusion; cultural differences and EAL; family structures and lifestyles; policy and legislation; and special educational needs.

Work-based Learning 2 – Professional Practice

By applying the knowledge that you gained from previous modules, you’ll be encouraged to explore your professional practice. You’ll also be expected to demonstrate a greater degree of autonomy in the management of your learning and exhibit a more detailed understanding of relevant theories.

Modules are subject to change and availability.


As you move through the course, we’ll check your progress regularly to make sure that you’re achieving milestones, and getting any extra support that you may need. You'll be assessed on one multiple choice exam and written work. This will include essays, a reflective diary, reports, presentations, web discussions and a professional development portfolio.

Meet your tutors

Stacy Randall, Senior Lecturer & Course Leader

Stacy has expertise in Early Years Education, working with children and families aged 0-7 years. Stacy is a qualified Social Worker and has a specific interest in leadership and management, safeguarding children, continuous professional development and lifelong learning. Having over 30 years’ experience in education she feels passionate about ensuring every child has the best childhood possible.

Stacy has tutored, assessed and mentored students in Higher Education since 2018. Stacy has a breadth of knowledge and skills to bring to her role.

Experience includes the role of Deputy Director for a National Children’s Charity, the operational responsibilities for Children’s Centres across West Essex, overseeing contracts for Young Carer projects and Prison Visitor Centres, Mentoring Programmes and other bespoke services.

As well as this Stacy worked in the children and families assessment team at a Local Authority until taking up a full time role at Anglia Ruskin University.

At all times she keeps the child at the centre of her work, ensuring the child’s voice is heard. Her varied experience and involvement in the early years industry has led to an interest to ensure the early years workforce is recognised for the important part they play in society, through education and continued research.

How you'll study

Our Early Years and Education FdA is studied 100% online.

You’ll study through Canvas, our world-class online Learning Management System (LMS), which can be accessed from your phone, PC or tablet, both at home and on the move. Canvas provides instant access to study materials, forums, and support from tutors and classmates, as well as enabling easy submission of your assignments.

On successful completion of your studies, you’ll be invited to attend a graduation ceremony on campus. If attending the ceremony in person is not possible then we’ll arrange to have your certificate sent to you.

Supported distance learning

We understand that distance learning is different to traditional campus study and if you’re new to online study you may have concerns or apprehensions about studying your FdA Early Years and Education remotely, and that’s natural.

To help put your mind at ease we have a dedicated Distance Learning Support Team to help and support you throughout your time at ARU, starting with your first online induction and staying with you right through to graduation. In addition, you’ll also be supported by specialist early years module tutors, well experienced in supporting distance learning students.

Once you start your FdA Early Years and Education, we encourage the creation of online communities and many of our learners find these connections with others invaluable, helping them to stay motivated, share concerns or make new friendships.

Contact us to talk through any questions or concerns or visit our support page for more information about the support services available.

Our support services

Gold-standard education

We're proud to have received a Gold award for the quality of our education in a UK-wide review of university teaching standards.

Why we're rated Gold

Our course content and delivery is rated as outstanding with the review citing ‘innovative and highly effective course design and content that inspires students to actively engage and commit to their learning’.

We’re also rated outstanding in the areas of:

  • student engagement in learning
  • learning environment and academic support
  • learning resources
  • student engagement in improvement
  • approaches to supporting student success
  • intended educational gains
  • approaches to supporting educational gains.

What is the Teaching Excellence Framework?

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a national scheme run by the Office for Students that focuses on the areas students care most about: teaching, learning, and achieving positive outcomes from their studies.

It has three outcomes: Bronze, Silver and Gold.

This rating was awarded in September 2023, and lasts for four years.

TEF 2023 Gold Award - Teaching Excellence Framework

Be part of the University of the Year

We're proud to be the Times Higher Education (THE) University of the Year 2023.

The prestigious THE awards honour ’exceptional performance during the 2021-22 academic year, and reflect ARU’s success in delivering high-impact projects during this period, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The award recognises the difference we make in the region and our communities – while also acknowledging the broader impact of our world-leading research, and the contributions our students and graduates make to society.

THE 2023 Awards Logo


What could a foundation degree in early years do for my career?

If you want to build a career working with children, a foundation degree in Early Years childcare and education can be a fantastic stepping stone to a wide range of careers and can be achieved within 3 years part-time as a distance learning student.

One of the most obvious – and most popular – of these is teaching. With an Early Years and Education FdA, you may choose to top up your degree to a BA or continue to teacher training.

This course also opens the door to a number of educational opportunities outside of teaching, including educational assistant and consultancy roles. Working in education is a rewarding path that gives you the opportunity to help shape young lives, whether through working directly with young children or developing policies that allow them the chance to learn and grow in secure, stimulating environments. By contributing to education in this way, you’ll play a crucial role in improving the lives and opportunities of young children at a crucial time in their lives.

With a degree in Early Years and Education, you can also open doors to roles in child protection and social services, applying the theories and policies that you learned on our expertly curated modules to ensure the health and safety of young children.

What job roles can I consider with a foundation degree in early years?

An Early Years & Education FdA could lead to a wide range of career opportunities within education, health and social care sectors with further training and/or qualifications. These are just some of the job roles that Early Years & Education FdA graduate may consider, possibly with further training depending on the role:

  • Early Years Teacher
  • Family Support Worker
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Learning Mentor
  • Key Worker
  • Primary School Teacher
  • Special Educational Needs Teacher
  • Nursery Manager
  • Children Centre Worker

If you are looking for more information about these job profiles and potential salary earnings see Prospects.ac.uk. It’s important to note that salaries can vary widely depending on the job role, employer, industry sector and location.

What skills will I get from a foundation degree in early years to help my career?

Choosing to study an Early Years & Education FdA will give you many transferable skills. Here are just some of them:

  • You will develop critical thinking skills
  • Learn to communicate ideas, principles, theories, and argument
  • Use ICT to support your own development and the development of children
  • Understand how to manage time and resources
  • Manage your own CPD

What can I study after a foundation degree in early years?

Depending on your long-term goals and desired career, the Early Years & Education FdA provides a stepping stone to further qualifications such as Early Childhood Studies (Top-up) BA (Hons) or a teaching qualification. Further along In your career, you may consider a postgraduate degree in a related subject such as Education with Early Childhood MA or Education with Montessori MA .

Careers Advice Service

Once you become an ARU student you will be able to access our Employability service to help you at whatever stage of your career, whether that’s landing your dream job or the next progression step.

We offer:

  • careers advice, including one-to-one online and telephone appointments with our experienced advisers
  • help with your CV, job searches, applications and interview preparation
  • an online portal packed with useful careers resources
  • our Employability Programme, which helps you hone the skills employers say they want in graduates.

Entry requirements


  • A minimum age of 18
  • Appropriate Level 3 Integrated Qualifications Framework (IQF) Qualification (CWDC) with current or recent experience in childcare
  • GCSE grade 4 (C) or above in English Language and Maths (or any other Level 2 English or Maths qualification, including Equivalency Testing)
  • If English is not your first language you will be expected to demonstrate a certificated level of proficiency of at least IELTS 6.0 (Academic level) or equivalent English Language qualification, as recognised by Anglia Ruskin University.
  • You'll need Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) clearance in order to study this course.


  • UCAS Tariff points acquired from BTEC Level 3 Diplomas are accepted.
  • Access to HE Diplomas at overall Pass grade are accepted.
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma with a minimum of 24 points is accepted.
  • UCAS Tariff points from the Irish Leaving Certificate are accepted.
  • UCAS Tariff points from Scottish Highers are accepted.
  • UCAS Tariff points from Scottish Advanced Highers are accepted.
  • 48 UCAS Tariff Points from A level (or equivalent).

As a distance learner, you'll also need a suitable computer with internet connection, together with sufficient IT competence to make effective use our online learning management system (LMS) with high-speed internet and email.

Fees & funding


The full tuition fee for this course is £10,600.

The tuition fees you pay each year for the full Early Years and Education FdA will be £2,650 in year one and £3,975 in years 2 and 3. The course is studied over 3 years.

Accredited Prior Learning may reduce the tuition fees. This will be confirmed once your application has been submitted.


Government-backed part time student loans are available to cover the cost of studying this course. These are subject to eligibility and terms and conditions.

We offer payment by instalments, so you can spread the cost of studying with us.

For military students: You can use your ELCs towards this course. ARU is a recognised ELCAS provider (number 1007). Please contact your Learning Centre for details of ELC, eligibility and how to apply.

For more information on how you fund your studies please see our funding page.

What our students say

Peter - ARU Student

I'm impressed with the support I've received during my foundation degree. For this reason, and to fulfil my aspirations of becoming a teacher, I have chosen ARU to extend my studies to a BA degree.

Read Peter's story
Reagan - ARU Distance Learning Student

My course has given me the skills and confidence to make changes and improvements in my place of work and understand the theory behind the process.

Read Reagan's story
Sophie Mallinder - ARU Student

I am very proud of myself for finally accomplishing what I have been meaning to do for many years and it has given me the confidence to undertake further study in the future.

Read Sophie's story
Jacob - ARU Distance Learning Student

The level of support ARU offers is world-class. ARU has clear, concise online support that is easy to navigate.

Read Jacob's story

Frequently Asked Questions

Next application deadline:

31st July 2024

Discover what you're made of.Apply now before the application deadline.

Find out more about distance learning on our blog:

Distance Learning Alumni Survey 2023

Distance Learning Alumni Survey 2023

13th March 2024

View Blog